(Last Updated On: October 29, 2018)

Remember the animated movie “The Land Before Time?” If not, for shame. Great film. In the movie, food is becoming dangerously scarce, forcing the hero, Littlefoot, and all his dinosaur friends to journey in search of the fabled Great Valley, a lush landscape full of everything they would need for survival.

In the IT world, another great migration is already well underway, with more and more business journeying away from dangerously high-cost data centers towards the abundantly fruitful oasis that is the cloud.

If you look solely at the numbers – a 2017 cloud platform survey conducted by O’Reilly Media found that a 94% of businesses were planning on running apps in the cloud by 2022 – they confirm that it’s only a matter of time before we inevitably end up in a cloud native future.

But if you look deeper, it appears that not everyone is in a rush to be like Littlefoot & Co. and make their Great Cloud Migration all at once: The same O’Reilly Media survey revealed that while 74% of respondents are currently running applications on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platforms, only 21% of current cloud businesses were using PaaS for app production. Furthermore, of the respondents who already use IaaS, 72% planned on migrating to a hybrid cloud architecture in the future.

So even with the abundance of obvious benefits that the cloud provides, the decision to go fully cloud native is clearly far from a no-brainer for many businesses. With that in mind, we’ll detail the major advantages of the cloud below, but we’ll also look at some alternative strategies that may work better for your business, as well as a step-by-step process on how to gradually convert your business’ legacy applications into fully cloud native services.

4 Major Advantages of Going Cloud Native

  1. The first major advantage of going cloud native is the ability to develop, test and deploy legacy applications much more quickly by making changes to the parts themselves rather than the whole.
    1. Breaking down monolithic apps into decoupled microservices
    2. Packaging processes and their dependencies into containers
    3. Using automated tools to orchestrate development
  2. Application performance can be improved drastically thanks to cloud-native load balancers and other tools. With no single point of failure, applications become more fault-tolerant, too.
  3. Scalable and agile components allow for rapid iterations through repeatable automation and orchestration. Multiple users and additional sites can be quickly brought online by increasing resource provision.
  4. Quicker times-to-market, better resource utilization and efficiency savings. With cloud services charged on a PAYG basis, this gives businesses more control over costs.

5 Smart Strategies for Cloud Migration

The cloud advantages listed above are all well-documented and clear-cut, and there’s really no dispute. But what if you’re an established business with an abundance of legacy applications and a workforce that is well-entrenched working with those apps?

Let’s check out some smart strategies that top companies are already using to ease into the re-architecture of their IT environments:

  1. Adopt continuous integration (CI) first, then move on to containerization
  2. Begin with containerization and then move on to CI
  3. Introduce microservices before moving on to CI
  4. Gradually break up monolithic apps into microservices
  5. Containerize development processes

Some businesses operate different strategies across departments and may or may not tie them all together, so one of the above strategies might in fact be better suited for them vs. going cloud-native in a single leap. But why? Glad you asked. Let’s look at an example, shall we?

Take a business with a small and relatively inexperienced DevOps team and a fairly simple monolithic application that they want to reproduce and use as a proof-of-concept by deploying it into a new market.

Just for fun, let’s call this company Littlefoot Technologies (LFT).

LFT’s application is simple to manage, but they aren’t yet ready to scale it and they don’t know if the app will generate a profit. In this case, the shift in complexity to a native cloud architecture is likely to harm productivity, particularly if the test fails and LFT is ultimately unable to turn a profit.

In this case, LFT is likely to benefit more from rapidly building and deploying an image of the app – a minimal viable product (MVP) – to gauge public appeal. This will also avoid vendor lock-in since cloud native apps lack portability and would have to be completely rewritten for another platform.

With no major cost involved in pulling the project, LFT’s application is likely to be judged more objectively rather than pushed through because the business is too attached to a positive outcome.

If the test is a success, then LFT can start looking to break down the legacy monolith, carefully checking the codebase for hidden workarounds and other surprises as they gradually decompose it into more scalable microservices. This will help ensure that LFT doesn’t accidentally drop wholesale functions – another risk of rushing into a cloud-native deployment.

Step-by-Step Transition for Gradually Going Cloud-Native

If you’re looking for a common and more granular example of how a business might gradually convert a legacy application into a fully cloud-native service, here’s one courtesy our friends at Cloud66.

  1. First, the monolithic legacy app is containerized for simpler (and potentially more secure) deployment and testing of images.
  2. Next, the application is split into a stateful backend (with API) and stateless frontend, increasing its scalability and resilience.
  3. Finally, split up the backend (and often the API as well) into progressively smaller, often stateless components. This will allow you to be in a position to leverage third-party services such as databases and managed queues.

One big advantage with this piecemeal process to going native is that it reduces the risk of losing major features. And if a feature does go down, it is much simpler to fix.

The Verdict

Going cloud native is a big undertaking and the risks of jumping in with both feet, especially for an established company with numerous legacy applications, are high.

But that doesn’t mean that the migration process has to involve a huge rewrite. In line with continuous integration practice, monolithic applications and services can be gradually broken down, enabling any problems to be carefully ironed out.

As with most decisions involving cloud migration, each company (and each application) needs to be looked at as an individual entity. What’s right for one may not be right for the next, which is why it’s always a good idea to consider bringing in a cloud migration specialist like Shamrock Consulting Group to make sure things are done right from the get-go.

Shamrock’s team of cloud experts have facilitated hundreds of successful migrations for our customers, often resulting in savings of 35% on more on your cloud expenditure. Shamrock is a vendor-neutral consultancy offering the analysis, expertise and support you need while leaving the final decisions up to you. We’ll approach your IT architecture through your eyes, identifying ways to optimize performance while also trimming your costs.

Imagine how incredible our boy Littlefoot felt when he and his buds finally made it to the Great Valley, realizing that everything they had worked for came to fruition — that’s kinda how it feels for IT leaders to finally go cloud native, which is an exciting and progressive step forward.

The important thing to remember is that going cloud native doesn’t need to be done in one fell swoop – there are strategies and steps in place to help you achieve your ultimate goals within the cloud, and the cloud experts at Shamrock are here to help make your journey a fruitful one.

Ryan Reeves

Ryan Reeves

Ryan Reeves is the Director of Marketing and Customer Success for Shamrock Consulting Group, and he is also an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. Ryan brings a unique perspective and skill set to the technology industry after spending the first 10 years of his career working with some of most innovative media and entertainment brands in the world. His versatility has been vital in establishing Shamrock as an award-winning industry leader and industry disruptor. In his free time, Ryan likes to snowboard, play soccer and basketball, and travel with his lovely wife, Lucy.